Scent marking behaviour of the honey badger Mellivora capensis (Mustelidae) in the southern Kalahari

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Animal Behaviour



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We investigated sexual and seasonal patterns in scent-marking behaviour of the honey badger, by direct observations of habituated individuals (five females, four adult males, two young males). Four categories of scent-marking behaviour were identified: (1) scent marking at latrines; (2) token urination in holes along the foraging path; (3) squat marking at single-use sites; and (4) functional excretion. Females and young males used all four types of scent marking, but adult males were not observed to use token urination. A strategy of hinterland scent marking was used, as was predicted from the large home ranges of both male and female honey badgers. There were significant sexual differences in marking rate: adult males primarily used latrines and adult females favoured token urination. Latrine scent marking in adult male honey badgers provides support for the ‘scent-matching’ hypothesis. Females visited latrines when they were in oestrus. However, the low level of marking activity during a visit and the intensive smelling suggested a scent-matching function rather than reproductive advertisement. Token urination appeared to be related to the maintenance of spatiotemporal separation in females, although we also observed token urination in young males. While the placement of urine in foraging holes and its relation with successful digging attempts offer some support for the foraging efficiency hypothesis, we consider this unlikely, because we did not observe it in adult males and there was no seasonal pattern. Squat marking occurred under a wide range of conditions in both males and females and may be related to marking valuable resources. It is likely that scent marking in honey badgers has many functions.

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